Retail has always been a fast-paced industry. Customers come in and out, sometimes they go in empty-handed and leave with a big smile and a couple of paper/plastic bags in their hand. But some tend to leave behind a pretty bad mark in the store.
Whether it is memorably disgusting or not, I’ve managed to get a retail manager to speak her mind about customers – customers that she really hated or wished don’t exist at all.
The retail manager wishes to keep her identity a secret, so let’s call her, Ms Abe. Ms Abe has been in the retail industry for about 5 to 6 years already, starting out as a normal staff, before going on to becoming a store manager. Ms Abe has seen pretty much everything. “Things get pretty dirty when you work in retail. You get to see everyone’s dirty side and the worse part is, you can’t say even anything because they are your customers, they indirectly contribute to your pay,” Ms Abe said.
“But that doesn’t mean that you can treat us [the staff] badly,” she continued. Here, I help her list down the types of customers … from the plain rude to the weirdest she has ever encountered.
“Intentional or not, I don’t know. This kind would either slam their purchases on the counter loudly, or rudely,” Ms Abe said. “Especially back when I was assigned to be at the fitting room, the customers would come up with their clothing item and they would just slam it!” Ms Abe really wishes that the customers would just politely put their clothes down on the table as the hangers would hit the table.
“Try to imagine yourself slamming your documents for your manager to sign. How do you think your manager would react to it?” Great words from Ms Abe for those who never worked as a retailer before.
Ms Abe shook her head when she told me this part. “Horrible,” she said. “This kind consists of the ones you want to avoid encountering with, at all cost.”
When I asked why, Ms Abe quickly got into her story-telling mode. “Well, these are the ones who really would go all the way for that item, at a cheaper price.”
“There was once where we [the staff] incorrectly tagged the price of a dress. And somehow, a lady got that item with the wrong price. When she was at the counter, oh dear Lord. She was going ballistic!”
“She kept arguing that it’s her consumer rights and it’s not my problem and sorts.”
Apparently, the lady wanted the item so badly because it was cheaper by a few dollars that she was making a ruckus at the counter; despite Ms Abe explaining that she can’t override the item’s price. “Now matter how much I tried to explain it to her, she just got angrier and angrier,” I asked her whether lady got the dress in the end, Ms Abe said, “She didn’t but she really was desperate to get it until she willingly to put a good fight.”
Of course, Ms Abe mentioned that there are times the staff just got too lazy to explain about things and just let them pay for that incorrectly priced item. “It’s hard,” was all she could say.
“Sometimes, I wonder whether retailers and tailors come hand in hand?” Ms Abe said, sipping on her cup of coffee. I was confused for a while. “There are always these customers coming up to me and asking whether the pants will fit them or not.”
“And when I asked what size they usually wear, all they can say is, ‘I don’t know’,” she rolled her eyes as she talked. Ms Abe was clearly frustrated by that answer and told her to try it at the fitting room but the only answer was, ‘I’m just too lazy.’
“I’m bad in this too, though,” Ms Abe said, giggling. “But I’ll only do it at the fitting room, not when it is at the store’s display.” This usually points out to a lot of people, even myself at times. We know it can be a hassle putting back the item on the hanger, but at times it just goes overboard.
“People would just throw that sweater from its hanger to the shoe display rack. They just don’t care.” Somehow this is very eye-opening. We all tend to just throw or unfold the clothes from their original places. After hearing what Ms Abe said, it made me feel embarrassed.
The Rule Breaker
“The rules inside your room still apply when you’re outside, especially when you’re in the fitting room,” Ms Abe said. Again, when she was assigned at the fitting room, Ms Abe remembered how those customers wouldn’t flip their clothes back. “It’s the worst feeling, putting your arms in to flip it back.”
I was curious and asked why. “All the dead skin cells would just fly all over!” She laughed and to be honest, I also did laugh. “I mean, who would like to inhale other people’s dead skin cells directly, right?”
But of course that was not the case. “Sometimes, you don’t know whether the customers, especially the ladies would get their monthly period. You would think all sorts of dirty things, whether it would stain the pants or not. You don’t know!”
Ms Abe gets it if the item that was displayed is not in their size but then what she doesn’t get is when they want the item fresh from the oven. In this case, the stockroom.
“They would just straight up demand for that item from stockroom.” I wondered myself too, whether I made such ridiculous request, and believe it or not, I actually did.
“I don’t judge if you’re a OCD but then you know it won’t make any difference, right?” And it doesn’t.
The Plain Psycho
Though it never happened to Ms Abe before, she said it was once mentioned at a meeting before and it was like every manager’s worst dream came true.
“Once at a meeting, another manager mentioned that some psycho would come and do their business at the fitting room.” Whether you believe it or not, it was real and it happens every now and then.
“This job sometimes makes you think twice about humanity!” No doubt the small space in the fitting room does resemble a bathroom’s cubicle but what makes a person want to do their business inside?!
Despite seeing all of these, I asked whether Ms Abe still wants to continue working in retail industry. She said yes of course, but tends to break down and question it. “But it’s always better than an office job, sitting in front of the computer. I get to see weird and crazy people!”
As the interview came to an end, I asked her why she wanted to expose all of these customers. “I rarely share it as I don’t even know where to begin. And I know that by sharing this story; my side of the story, everyone’s eyes will be opened at the fact that retailers are also humans.”
She continued to say that sometimes the customers just don’t image being in the staffs’ shoes. “They just become cruel. Very cruel.”
Ms Abe’s interview has really opened up my eyes about how I should shop now, about realising that retailers are humans and how we should be just polite to them. So, I hope this interview really helped you too, in opening your eyes regarding these matters. Take time to reflect on how you behave when you go out shopping.